RAVEL: Music for Two Pianos = Rapsodie Espagnole; Introduction and Allegro; Entre cloches; Sheherazade; Frontispice; La Valse – Stephen Coombs & Christopher Scott, pianos – Regis 1356, 56:07 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:
This is a 1990 re-release of a recording that garnered a fair amount of praise at the time. The Rapsodie Espagnole is the real star here, suitably enigmatic and mysterious while at the same time fully Iberian and assertive when need be. I like the articulation of this duo, always clean, sharp-edged, and most importantly, uniform.
La Valse is bound to be important on any disc it finds itself on, and so is the case here as well. Coombs and Scott do not linger, and they do not sentimentalize it as so many performers do; instead they give us Ravel’s dream/nightmare sequence in a mist that evaporates quickly and concentrates on the reality of the dancers themselves as opposed to the “vision” aspect of the score.
The other pieces here, while not as well known, are nonetheless given a treatment that affords the best of Ravel’s oeuvre—one cannot imagine many readings that zero in on his nascent classical sensibilities so insightfully while showing us a clarity that easily puts the lie to his being a Debussy wannabe; in so many ways he was Debussy’s superior.
The sound is excellent on this now 22-year-old- recording and the performances come across beautifully. The Penguin Guide gave it a “Rosette” if that carries any weight for you. I’m not sure these are the best readings out there of these pieces, but they are very fine and easily serve as only readings if the need arises.
Some “first time” Dance Music releases by Sevitzky and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra